Council of Europe: 25th Session of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education

Brussels, April 11-12

Speech at the Plenary 3: Effective Citizenship Education that Prevents Violent Extremism and Combats Radicalization Leading to Terrorism

The Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity, also known as the Euromaidan Revolution, in 2014 highlighted the strength of Ukrainian Civil Society, urging reforms in Ukrainian education that were well overdue. The Revolution also served as a unifying force for Ukrainian identity, bringing about hard-won solidarity in a country still burdened with a Soviet legacy. The Revolution was a beacon of democratic initiative by civil society which included all of Ukraine, transcending linguistic, religious and ethnic differences.

The question of Global Civic Education and the values of democracy that it seeks to instill in the population has a specific meaning in the context of Post-Soviet, Post-Totalitarian, and Post-Colonial countries like Ukraine. Ukraine, specifically, is a country in which “transformation” has historically been a permanent fixture on the political landscape. There is an old Greek proverb that says, “there is nothing more permanent than the temporary” and this is uniquely applicable to Ukraine. The constant state of change has left the door open for corruption in business and politics, poisoning the operations of a democratic political system and diminishing trust between the State and the Ukrainian people.

At the same time, the closeness of Russia, both geographically and in recent memory, has acted as both a catalyst for chaos and as a reminder of what a lack of democracy looks like. In fact, we have undeclared war against terrorists, organized, financed, armed, and supported by Russia; and against Russian military units as well. As a result – 1,6 million IDPs, 19 evacuated universities and 10 research institutions. This does not mean that there have not been challenges that have remained from Soviet times in the Ukrainian ethos, things like apathy towards the state and corruption continue to stain our everyday lives as a result of many years in the Soviet Union.

This is where Global Civic Education in Ukraine becomes of the utmost importance. I see the Framework for Global Civic Education as a special opportunity for Ukraine to mend some of the damage from Soviet times, and the subsequent state of constant revolution, on Ukrainian society. Although Civic Education is offered in Ukrainian schools, it’s overlooks Ukraine’s multi-faceted population, the meaning of active citizenship and our role in the global community.

Global Civic Education in Ukraine needs to take place at every level of learning, beginning in preschool and continuing through primary school and higher education. This is perhaps more important due to our History, in which the State and the People rarely worked together and, indeed, were not perceived as being on the same “team.” Global Civic Education changes the perception of education and the relationship between the public and the state. In the post-Soviet context, it helps stress the role of the people in the governance of the country.

Global Civic Education should instill students with the desire to better the world in which they live and with a commitment to preserving democratic governance. Civic education should foster tolerance for different worldviews, cultures, and languages, but should demand intolerance for corruption at all levels of society.

The Framework, as currently presented, demands of students to consider the policies and governing bodies of their country, their region and their world. It begs them to consider what their own role is in relationship to the state and how they can be agents of change in the world in which they live. This is something that is crucial in Ukraine, as it flips the role of the citizen as one who is acted upon by the state to one who acts as a part of the state.

Much has been done since the Revolution of Dignity to improve civic education in Ukraine and to bring Ukraine closer to its European partners. To begin with, the Ukraine has a highly educated population, with levels of enrollment in primary and secondary education at close to 100% for both genders and about 80% enrollment in tertiary education, fulfilling our common goal of the right to education for all citizens.  We now have a population that is more active than ever in non-governmental organizations- a thriving civil society that is propelling issues of freedom and human rights into social discourse. We are implementing education reforms that increase student mobility, both throughout Ukraine, Europe and more globally.

Foreign languages are emphasized in education and in political discourse so that Ukrainian research and innovation can be stimulated and shared with the global community. In particular, foreign languages give Ukrainians access to global life, global discussions and the global market. Furthermore, they represent a separation from the post-Soviet world. To this end, foreign languages are increasingly being taught in schools all throughout the country. By granting Ukrainians access to languages that will allow them to interact with the international community, we increase the chances of developing the ideal of becoming a Global citizen, informed and sensitive to the issues that unite us all. Without the language to engage in global discourse, the idea of Global civic education seems to die where linguistic barriers begin.

Finding the experts that can train teachers on implementing Global Civic Education will be an important step to the success of this framework. Costs will need to be calculated and the sharing of best practices among educators in all of our countries will need to be carried out. Furthermore, it will be necessary to accurately measure the success of this framework in our education systems.

For Ukraine, the biggest challenge in any framework we establish here is the implementation of such a framework across all levels of education. Indeed, the success of Global Civic Education in Ukraine depends heavily on the reforms in pedagogical schools. Finding experts that can train teachers will be of the highest importance and a big challenge in terms of financing training for our educators.

Finally, facilitating people-to-people contact through visa liberalization is essential to creating relationships between civil societies, academic communities and citizens. This contact is a significant contribution towards developing interconnectedness and mutual understanding that fosters peace and helps to combat extremism. This contact across countries and cultures promotes openness and sensitivity towards diversity and will go a long way in opening Ukraine up to the world and the introducing the world to Ukraine.


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